Latest from The Spokesman-Review
Genre: First-person sandbox survival
Platform Reviewed On: Playstation 4
Also available for: PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Playstation Vita, Android, iOS, Windows Phone ($19.99)
Developer: Mojang, 4J Studios
Publisher: Mojang, Microsoft Studios, Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: Nov. 18, 2011
Somewhere around our fourth hour playing the wildly popular Minecraft on a Saturday afternoon, my girlfriend shrieked in horror.
“What the hell is that?” she said, pointing to a tall, dark figure with glowing red eyes, snatching dirt and rocks for some undoubtedly nefarious purpose. I wished I could save her, but I was miles away in a mine of my own, tunneling for gold and trying to fend off a growing number of skeleton archers who were making a pincushion of my giant, blocky head.
If you don’t get the attraction of “Minecraft,” you probably haven’t played Mojang’s genre-defying experience. The indie title has been lampooned in mainstream and gamer media alike, particularly by those “hardcore” among us who insist that something has to die or be destroyed for a virtual experience to qualify as a game.
To be sure, there are things that must be destroyed, and death, in Minecraft. But the focus is instead on creation and survival, if indeed there is such a thing as a “goal” in the game. You can play Minecraft for hours and never slay a living creature nor achieve what any would call an accomplishment by traditional gaming standards. You won’t progress through levels or gain character-defining experience points (though they do exist in a limited fashion in the game). What Minecraft is all about is handing you, the player, an imaginative, blocky world to play in, and I mean that in the deepest sense of the word.
Narrative is something that’s created, not handed to you as it is in most other games. The defining moments of the title are experiences you share with other characters and with the world around you. That’s what makes the PS4 version of the game the ultimate Minecraft experience: 4-player split-screen means you can have a bevy of builders all working on the same structure, affecting the world in their own unique ways. Sony’s “SharePlay” option on its new console allows you to experience the title with friends who don’t have to buy the game, either.
That afternoon, I succumbed to the skeletons and the dark creature decimated my girlfriend. We were stripped of our hard-won stone pickaxes and swords, a moment of frustration after a long period of creation. But, as a testament to Minecraft’s addictive pull, we left the front door of our wooden-plank home in search of new adventures, our anger fading away with that ambient music and the rising hills of stone in the distance.
Verdict: 5/5 stars
Redmond-based Microsoft is working on a beta version of Skype that gives real-time translations of conversations between people speaking different languages.
CEO Satya Nadella, who showed off the app at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., said the service has been in the works for 15 years.
It will be available free to Skype users by the end of this year as a Windows 8 beta app, the WSJ’s Douglas MacMillan reports.
Most people know that Microsoft shut down product support for individual users of Windows XP. But it still offers custom product support for companies that want to maintain that operating system.
ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley summarizes how that works in this article.
The article noted that despite the relative advantages of Windows 7 and 8.1, a lot of companies are maintaining a base of XP machines. Those are mostly large organizations with dispersed operations in different locations.
The article says: "Gartner estimates 20 percent to 25 percent of enterprise systems are still running Windows XP, and that one-third of enterprises have more than ten percent of their systems still on XP. Often times, enterprise customers are still running XP because they have custom applications and/or peripherals that make migrating complicated and difficult."
"In 2012, Gartner says some customers were claiming Microsoft was charging as much as $5 million for extended support coverage for Windows XP. But by 2013, according to Gartner, that cost was closer to a maximum of $2 million."
The big takeaway: if you still need XP support, bargain. Microsoft will start higher than you will end up on the pricing.
We'd like to find some area examples of companies still using XP in their workplaces. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Foley also wrote: "It's also worth noting that there is a time limit — which Microsoft is not disclosing — on how long the company will continue to provide XP patches to those users who are paying for CSA coverage. And in order to qualify for CSA coverage, customers must have migration plans with quarterly deployment milestones and a project completion date."
Well slap my face and call me Sally.
Yesterday I posted an article about ditching XP because Microsoft was ending all support, including antivirus support, for that old and aged behemoth. I'll just go ahead and assume that they read my article, because that very same day they announced they will continue to support their security software for both enterprise and consumers through July 14, 2015.
So granny's machine won't turn into a botnet just yet (if it hasn't already). But that doesn't mean you're off the hook.
I'm sorry, that title is a bit misleading, but please continue reading.
Because I'm a "computer guy," people always ask me about what anti-virus software to use, even though I'm avowedly a Mac user and haven't regularly used a PC in almost a decade. What's funny is that the people who ask me those questions are still using the same operating system that I was using all the way back then, Windows XP.
So the thing about protecting your XP box from viruses is:
STOP USING XP.
I mean, seriously. Microsoft is dropping it stone cold dead on April 8, including XP support for my former AV goto Microsoft Security Essentials. There is absolutely no excuse for you to be on XP anymore, even if you're super poor and can't afford a new machine. (In that case, I suggest installing Linux, which is both free as in "free beer" and free as in "freedom", and is as secure as you want it to be.)
If your IT department requires you to use XP, fire your IT department. If you're neither poor nor have a poor IT department, just pony up for a new PC, install security essentials and be done with it.
If, for some reason I simply wouldn't comprehend, you really insist on keeping XP, you do still need an up-to-date anti-virus, because *I* don't want *your* machine to be turned into a node on a giant spam botnet. I don't really have an official recommendation for what that AV would be, since I would probably just Google it, but Softpedia has a good list of Security Essentials alternatives that you could try.
In a bit of tongue-in-cheek jesting, Microsoft is selling a coffee mug that takes a jab at Google's propensity for "data aggregation," AKA, "Do no evil.*"
I think it's a jab at Gmail, since I know that's one of their selling points for their email products.
I was going to buy one, had it in my cart and hit "submit," but apparently between first seeing the mug and trying to check out, it sold out. Either that or their ecommerce system is a piece of junk. But I would never accu$e M$ of using broken $oftware, so it mu$t have been $old out.
* Googlespeak for "collect all your data and sell it to the highest bidder."
Governor-elect Jay Inslee named a three-person transition team today comprised of a school superintendent, a software executive and a university president as he put out a call for talent "every single place we can find it."
Inslee appointed Washington State University President Elson Floyd, Microsoft corporate counsel Brad Smith and Renton Schools Superintendent Mary Alice Heuschel to lead his search for a new department heads when he takes office in July. The trio of "change agents" represents the kind of state government he said he wants to develop, from both sides of the Cascades, from different industries and from public and private sectors.
Floyd said he welcomed the opportunity to help position the state for economic growth: "We have an incredible talent base here in our state."
At the same time, he put out a call for Democrats, Republicans and independents who want help the state address what he called its great challenges. The state has struggled since the recession with declining revenues that don't cover its planned programs, and now faces a court mandate to increase spending on public schools to meet its constitutional obligations.
In responding to questions that followed his announcement . . .
Liberty Lake-based STCU is ranked 16th-best place to work in Fortune magazine’s rankings of medium-sized U.S. companies.
STCU is the third-largest credit union in Washington and the largest credit union in the Inland Northwest. It has 110,000 members with branches in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.
The Best Places to Work ranking at cnnmoney.com praises STCU for a culture of celebration, fun and commitment to employees. The review noted STCU provides a tuition reimbursement for its staff of up to $8,225 per year for related studies.
“It allows parents to take time off for their kids' first day of kindergarten and first grade, as well as for parent-teacher conferences,” the magazine said.
The top-ranked medium-sized business in the ranking was Acuity, an insurance company based in Sheboygan, Wis. A total of 25 companies are listed.
Fortune's lists also include the annual 100 Best Companies to Work For. Northwest companies on that list include: Perkins Coie law firm, No. 58; Nordstrom, No. 61; Umpqua Bank in Portland, No. 69; Starbucks, No. 73,, Microsoft, No. 76; Everett Clinic, No. 87; and Schweitzer Engineering, No. 97.
Microsoft has released its new logo.
It's the first serious change to the four-colored window theme logo in 25 years.
A company blog notes:
The Microsoft brand is about much more than logos or product names. We are lucky to play a role in the lives of more than a billion people every day.
The ways people experience our products are our most important “brand impressions”. That’s why the new Microsoft logo takes its inspiration from our product design principles while drawing upon the heritage of our brand values, fonts and colors.
The Port of Quincy has sold 12 acres in its industrial park to Amway, the giant direct-sales company that distributes thousands of household products.
Rep. Ross Hunter checks his hands for tan after Gov. Chris Gregoire says legislators need to show up "tan, rested and ready" in January to cut more than the budget she signed Tuesday.
OLYMPIA – With advice to the Legislature to show up “tan, rested and ready” in January to finish fixing the state’s budget problems, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the $480 million “downpayment” supplemental budget.
It is, Rep. Ross Hunter, chairman of the House budget committee, said, merely the first supplemental budget of the two-year fiscal cycle.
“Count on it,” Gregoire replied, adding the votes needed to find another $1.5 billion in savings will present legislators with “the worst votes they’re ever going to take in their lives.”
The budget signed Tuesday had bipartisan support in both chambers, but involves a number of fund transfers and accounting maneuvers to accomplish some of the savings…
The Step 2 tagline on the online version of the Social Media Sobriety Test sums it up:
"Choose your hours of intoxication."
About a year ago the coders who work at
The test was just upgraded by 14Four with a holiday theme. As the new version gains blog and broadcast notoriety, those at 14Four who've worked on the sobriety test project say it's been a great showcase of their talents and skills.
In the world of advertising and creative marketing, half the battle is winning eyeballs. And that has clearly happened with the sobriety test, said Jeff Oswalt, 14Four’s president.
Last year’s version involved just a web browser tool that set time limits when one could post messages or photos. The tests themselves were simple: follow a moving object onscreen with a mouse or type the alphabet backwards.
The new version comes with holiday-themed warnings, such as: “Before you hand out copies of your backside or tell your in-laws how you really feel, download the Holiday Party Sobriety Test and protect yourself, from yourself.”
It also added mobile versions for Android and iPhone; you can download the free sobriety app from iTunes.
The big gathering Tuesday in
Rutan, the renowned engineer who built the first commercially successful spacecraft, was at the side of the former Microsoft co-founder to launch their joint space venture, Stratolaunch Systems.
Stratolaunch hopes to become a successful aircraft-assisted launch company taking humans and payloads into orbit. Its first test flights won’t start until 2016. For a full overview of the new venture, here's Alan Boyle's report for MSNBC.com.
Rutan retired in April from his company Scaled Composites. He and his wife Tonya moved to
In an email, Rutan wrote that he'll serve as a Stratolaunch board member and adviser.
With funding from Allen, Rutan’s engineers at Scaled Composites designed SpaceShipOne, which won a $10 million prize in 2004 for being the first privately built and privately funded manned craft to reach space.
Rutan’s earlier accomplishments included developing the narrow-winged Voyager aircraft, which became in 1986 the first plane to fly around the world nonstop without refueling.
The couple lived in dry Mojave,
As he prepared to retire, Rutan and Tonya drove across the West and looked at cities where they might retire.
“We looked at a lot of cities,” said Tonya Rutan.
When they went back to Mojave, they realized
“It’s a charming city. And to us, it’s not small. It’s a big city to us, because we’re from a town of 3,000 people,” she said.
Photo shows Mike Griffin, Stratolaunch CEO, with Burt Rutan and Paul Allen. (Credit: Elaine Thompson / AP)
Presentations by Microsoft and a well-known how-to author are part of a Dec. 1 session in Spokane on how seniors can use the Web more safely and explore social networking.
Quincy continues using its data-center cluster as a way to increase its economic profile.
The acting U.S. Commerce Secretary, Rebecca Blank, announced on Wednesday that Quincy has been given a $3 million Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant to build a reverse osmosis treatment plant and related infrastructure that will support the region’s data processing industry.
The grant will increase the city’s water capacity and allow for continued expansion of nearby tech businesses who have or might in the future build data centers there.
The grant will help the community treat industrial and domestic wastweater to cool the Quincy data centers. The added capacity will also help area food processing and shipping businesses, according to an EDA press release.
Let's recap the companies using Grant County for affordable energy: Microsoft, Yahoo, Sabey, Intuit and Dell, so far.
We have a winner. Tmeatzie correctly noted that early on Windows 95 bore the codename "Spokane." Our sources, who worked at the Redmond company, say the name lasted a short while, replaced by the official codename "Chicago."
We gathered up this other odd little tidbit in our research: all the rest of this explanation is taken from the Wikipedia entry on Apple Inc. litigation.
Apple complied, but engineers retaliated by changing the internal codename to "BHA" for "Butt-Head Astronomer". Sagan then sued Apple for libel. The court granted Apple's motion to dismiss Sagan's claims and opined that a reader aware of the context would understand Apple was "clearly attempting to retaliate in a humorous and satirical way, adding "One does not seriously attack the expertise of a scientist using the undefined phrase 'butt-head'."
We spotted a recent story from Western Washington, noting that Microsoft apologized to the Tulalip Tribe for using the name "Tulalip" as an internal designation for a new product.
The two sides apparently discussed the minor flap and settled it sensibly. The tribe understood the name would not be used on an actual product, and Microsoft agreed to stop using the name internally.
But this practice has a long tradition.
In fact, at one time "Spokane" was a code name for an early test version of a prominent Microsoft product.
Can anyone identify it? First person to correctly identify which MS product had the "Spokane" test name for a brief while gets a $10 Starbucks card.
Current Microsoft company workers are not eligible. Each participant is allowed just one guess.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gestures during a news conference in San Francisco, Tuesday, announcing Microsoft's acquisition of Skype. USA Today story here. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Question: What do you generally use Skype for?
Trying as hard as we can to offer the occasional useful chart or graphic. Today's offering: a recently published graphic on what matters to people when buying a smartphone.
Definition first: A smartphone is: a mobile phone that offers more advanced computing ability and connectivity than a contemporary feature phone. Smartphones and feature phones may be thought of as handheld computers that use applications similar to those you would use on a computer. (Definition from Wikipedia).
The graphic comes by way of Businessinsider.com. The big determining factor, the survey shows, was "platform." which means: Is this running on Apple software, Microsoft or Google Android software?
The second leading factor in smartphone selection appears to be features (the kind of buttons, the presence of a video recorder, etc.) The third main factor are apps.
OLYMPIA – Bills aimed at fighting the theft of Information Technology around the globe were criticized Monday by retailers and some high tech companies as legislative committees tried to reconcile different proposals on the topic that passed each chamber with large margins.
The bills are sought by Microsoft, which estimates as much as 90 percent of manufacturing in China is done with stolen software and IT, and supported by the Motion Picture Association of America.
But the Washington Retail Association, Fred Meyer stores, IBM, General Motors and an information technology association to which Microsoft no longer belongs all oppose the bills, saying they would embroil stores and manufacturers in lawsuits.
Website datacenterknowledge.com recently listed the 10 largest data centers in the world. Landing at No. 9 is the Microsoft Data Center in Quincy, in the heart of Grant County. Officially, the website made Quincy 9A, with Microsoft’s San Antonio data center 9B.
The photo above shows the Quincy site. Until two years ago, Microsoft planned to build a second adjoining center. For reasons involving state taxes, it stopped and moved more of its data to Texas.
Both San Antonio and Quincy measure about 470,000 square feet. To view a video showing the inside of the Quincy site, it’s here.
Washington state leaders feel they’re back in the data center game.
Last week Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a bill that could help data centers expand or set up shop in Washington rural counties. The law allows tax breaks for data centers in any county other than Spokane, King, Pierce, Snohomish, Clark and Thurston.
Though Washington is facing massive budget deficits, state leaders were clearly warned that without a bill that cut sales taxes on new data center equipment, the future of expansion by Yahoo, Microsoft and other tech firms was minimal.
From 2006 until 2008, Microsoft, Intuit and Yahoo all built large data centers in Grant County, using the Port of Quincy’s low power rates and redundant fiber connectivity to justify the investment.
I can barely figure out my MP3 player, so I think I’ll pass on the Zune: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2009/may/27/microsoft-adds-touch-screen-web-browser-zune/
What’s on your playlist today?
Good afternoon, Netizens…
Once again Bob Kirkpatrick seems to have hit the nail on the head, taking full-bore aim at Bill Gates’ announcement that Microsoft is considering opening a chain of Microsoft Stores. Ah, yes, the first stores in the history of merchanising whose products require a reboot every week, all without benefit of free technical support.
Ostensibly they will have tons of Microsoft-branded products, other than software, for sale.
Imagine the possibilities! You could be the first male person in Spokane to have a new pair of tighty-whities (boxers are optional) with the ubiquitous Microsoft Logo on its backside, or for the fairer members of the species, a lovely peignoir suitable for lounging at bedtime with a mug shot of Bill Gates prominently-displayed across your attributes.
Are these Microsoft-branded products not insipid enough for your taste?
Perhaps you can think of other ways in which to market Microsoft and make lots of money. Just remember the black and white cows only worked for Gateway for awhile.